Walker Street’s New Mystery Lanes

Walker Street in Saint Louis Park is one of the oldest streets in the suburb. Walker Street and Lake Street are Saint Louis Park’s original “main street” district. A block from that intersection is the city’s high school, varsity stadium, and an elementary Spanish language immersion school.

With the TH 7/Louisiana Avenue intersection reconstruction complete, it was time to get around to rebuilding the very worn Walker Street on either side of the TH 7/Louisiana Avenue project.Walker Street

The old industrial district along Walker Street’s north side.

Just north of Walker Street, between Lake Street and Louisiana Avenue, is an old industrial area. (For context, the infamous Reilly Tar superfund site is along the western edge here.) The stretch of Walker Street between  Louisiana Ave on the west and Lake Street on the east was made extra wide to accommodate large truck traffic turning into the old industrial district to the north. Wide enough where today you can easily stripe in bike lanes. This week the project to repave Walker Street got to the re-striping.

Which brings me to the mystery lanes I saw appear this week.

Walker Street looking eastbound

Looking eastbound at Walker Street’s new curious, mystery lanes. Credit Eric Anondson

Walker Street at Republic Ave westbound

Looking westbound at Walker Street’s new curious, mystery lanes. Credit Eric Anondson

 

My first impression was that these were parking lanes. But when I again drove Walker Street later in the week I noticed the signs. Why paint a parking lane where there are “No Parking Any Time” signs all over? I’ll note, behind me in the second photo above there aren’t any “No Parking” signs, in fact that portion of Walker is used as a staging area for the SLP School District’s buses. I haven’t seen this portion of Walker Street used for that.

You can see how wide industrial streets are. Wide enough where we can fit two traffic lanes, bike lanes, and have all that room left over for … something?

I’m tickled that the city painted in bike lanes to connect the old main street district of Walker and Lake to the multi-use trails along Louisiana, which in turn link to the Cedar Lake Regional Trail to the south. Cool. Painting this was easily achievable, low-hanging fruit.

But why not paint the portions where parking isn’t allowed to be safer? On the stretch of Walker Street between Louisiana Avenue and Republic Avenue we should move the bike lane over nearer to the curb and put a painted buffer on the traffic lane side? I’m reminded of the moderate controversy over the choice of the city of Cleveland, OH, to paint bike lanes with the buffer on the sidewalk side. Other city’s engineers, planners, advocates were all chiming in on it. Most said their practices would place the buffer between the deadly motorized drivers and the bike lanes.

If this stretch from Republic Avenue to Louisiana Avenue is truly going to forbid parking, sensible safety would place buffers exactly here. Walker Street curves as it passes Republic Avenue and heads to Louisiana Avenue. When I’ve driven behind drivers on this part of Walker, every driver drove on the bike lane as they took the curve. For safety’s sake, the Republic-to-Louisiana stretch should be a priority to be repainted to use this mystery space (“no parking”-“parking lane”?) to put buffers between drivers in motor vehicles and cyclists.

The city of Saint Louis Park is seeking funds to “spruce up” the old main street district of Walker and Lake. I think a great way to help spruce it up is to get these bike lanes right where we can.


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13 Responses to Walker Street’s New Mystery Lanes

  1. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke November 22, 2015 at 10:04 am #

    Can’t argue with that! Saint Louis Park is the new Cleveland.

  2. Eric Anondson
    Eric Anondson November 22, 2015 at 11:02 am #

    I didn’t get in to it but how these bike lanes meet with the multiuse trails and sidewalks are a bit disjointed. The lanes kind of just end at a curb where Walker narrows down to feed drivers into the roundabouts.

    That could also get attention. Probably won’t.

  3. Sean Hayford Oleary
    Sean Hayford Oleary November 22, 2015 at 12:19 pm #

    It’s possible this was just MnDOT’s doing as part of the TH 7 Louisiana project. To comply with the state Complete Streets policy, a lot of new interchanges have bike lanes even when they don’t connect to anything or are unreasonably narrow. (Great example of this on the Wooddale bridge.)

    I could see them saying: 11′ lanes, 5′ bike lanes, and then a fog line. And whatever’s left over is left over — happens to be a parking lane width. It’s perfectly possible that whoever did the striping is a different authority than whoever manages the signs.

    One other possible explanation is that (IMO) almost every city in the metro does a terrible job of parking no parking zones, except Minneapolis. Minneapolis uses these 45° angled signs that use an arrow to clearly indicate what the boundaries are, and in what direction the “no parking” policy applies. Other cities (including St. Paul and the first ring) tend to do signs directly perpendicular to the flow of traffic, with ambiguous or inconsistent phrasing. “No parking beyond”, “No parking this side of sign”, “No parking corner to here”, “No parking this block”, etc.

    Nothing quite beats:

    NO PARKING —–>
    <—– NO PARKING

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell November 23, 2015 at 8:04 am #

      The parking sign issue you raised would make a great post.

      The way you describe this sounds like a good example of some engineers not using their brains and instead just doing this so that it MEETS MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS.

      • Wayne November 23, 2015 at 8:41 am #

        So basically business as usual for road designers?

    • Nathanael December 1, 2015 at 11:19 am #

      Being in the Northeast, it boggles my mind that anyone would use any no parking sign OTHER than

      NO PARKING —–>
      <—– NO PARKING

      Which is absolutely standard throughout the whole of New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, etc…

      • Nathanael December 1, 2015 at 11:19 am #

        Actually, why isn’t this a requirement in the MUCTD? If the MUCTD is supposed to be good for anything, it’s supposed to be for using best practices in signage uniformly.

  4. Sean Hayford Oleary
    Sean Hayford Oleary November 22, 2015 at 1:28 pm #

    Oh also regarding using the bike lane for the curve — Portland Ave near Pearl Park sees this a lot (you can even see how the bike lane line is worn off on the inside curves). But for what it’s worth, motorists do seem to avoid getting into this bike space when a bike is present.

    But I suppose you could make the same argument for sharrows…

  5. Eric Saathoff
    Eric S November 22, 2015 at 2:53 pm #

    I guess to me an important question would be – why is parking restricted here? If there is some serious use to that space (such as loading or unloading, as you indicated with the schools) that would be a reason to move the lane over. If there isn’t a reason for the parking restriction, should they allow on-street parking? The top picture doesn’t have a sidewalk. Maybe it’s a sidewalk!

    • Eric Anondson
      Eric Anondson November 22, 2015 at 6:55 pm #

      A thought I had was that the parking restrictions could have been from during the TH 7/Louisiana intersection and bridge construction.

      One business just demolished the triangular building at the Gorham and Walker to expand their employee parking. Might have been nice to have preserved the vacant building and just opened up this space for parking. Plus there are two municipal parking lots in the area, you can see the smaller one at the corner of Lake and Walker.

    • Wayne November 23, 2015 at 12:28 pm #

      I think a more important question to ask (in every case) is ‘why is street parking *needed* here?’. If you narrow down the street you have less pavement to maintain, people drive more slowly because they have less room to make mistakes, and you get more room for things like sidewalks.

  6. Walker Angell
    Walker Angell November 23, 2015 at 8:02 am #

    Great post. My question would be why distinguish between where there is and is not parking? Why not have the bikeway adjacent to the curb along the entire way and then have either parking or a painted buffer between traffic and bikeway?

    Do you know the posted and actual speed along here?

    • Eric Anondson
      Eric Anondson November 23, 2015 at 8:39 am #

      Posted speed is 30mph, also daily traffic count is just under 4,000. Traffic westbound is slightly downhill and always faster than 30. Before the painted bike lanes you could easily see a speeder zooming at 40 going west, it was just wide open. Louisiana at the west edge here suffers from highway-wide lanes and it is unusual if anyone drive the posted 30 there too, it feels uncomfortable to drive slower than 40.

      In my perfect design for painting for Walker Street here, on south curb I’d have a bike lane up against the curb buffered from traffic and no parking. On the north curb I’d have the bike lane against the curb with a buffer between a parking lane. By using the unnecessary “parking” lane on the south side of Walker to create the space needed for the buffers.

      The few businesses on the south side of Walker Street all have ample parking on their property. There a ton of curb cuts between Republic and Gorham, but there is enough room, I think, to even make them protected lanes.